Most employees want to know what is expected of them and how well they are doing against those expectations. Employees that are given reasonable expectations almost always rise to that level. Several years ago, we implemented a labor management system that was designed to give employees real time feedback on their productivity, as a percent of standard, for each assigned task. It worked like this: As a worker signed into a task, the system was to give them a target time for the task, assuming 100% of the standard. When the worker completed the task and was assigned another, the system was to automatically present them with their performance against standard on the previous task, a running total for the day, and the target time for the new task.
When the system was first implemented, we ran it for a period of time in a “hidden” mode. The system only told the employees the target time for each task, but did not give them any feedback on their performance. We did this in order to work out any bugs that might be in the standards. We collected the target and actual information for analysis only. When we were confident of the standards, we turned the feedback system on, allowing employees to see the goal times and their performance against the goals.
An interesting thing happened. Overnight, we got a sustained 20% improvement in productivity. Across the board, almost every employee improved their performance against goal. The only thing that changed was completing the feedback loop.
I know that many if not most distribution organizations post some level of productivity information. It is good management to keep people informed of goals and how the organization is doing against those goals. But, unless an employee can understand how he/she individually contributes to those goals, the information may be interesting, but of little use to them. The more discrete the information feedback loop is, the more they can affect it.
If you would like to read more about this topic, please visit F.Curtis Barry & Company's website and read their article Improve Warehouse Productivity by Measuring and Posting Numbers.
Posted by Marvin Logan on 3/5/2010
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